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Cornell researchers' study showing evidence of a major environmental trigger for autism
Date:11/10/2008

ITHACA, N.Y. The American Medical Association journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has published a new study by researchers at Cornell University indicating evidence of an environmental trigger for autism among genetically vulnerable children. It is the first peer-reviewed study to positively associate the prevalence of autism to a factor related to the levels of precipitation in the areas in which children live.

"This analysis is an important first step towards identifying a specific environmental trigger, or triggers, for autism," said lead author Michael Waldman of the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell.

While many autism experts believe that the disorder is triggered by the combination of an environmental trigger and a genetic predisposition (experts have identified genes related to the condition but do not have a full understanding of the full set of related genes), previous literature provides few clues concerning what the important environmental triggers might be. "Our hope is that this study will spur those in the medical community to investigate what the specific trigger might be that is driving our findings, so that countless children can be spared an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis," said Waldman, a professor of management and economics.

Co-author Associate Professor Sean Nicholson of the College of Human Ecology at Cornell added, "We looked at the hypothesis using three different statistical approaches and in each case we found strong evidence consistent with the hypothesis."

Dr. John Williams of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania also contributed to the study. About the team's findings, he said: "These are provocative data that will generate a lot of discussion in the clinician and patient communities. Clearly, further study is required, especially given that many of the possible environmental triggers discussed may be avoidabl
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Contact: Nicola Pytell
nwp2@cornell.edu
607-254-6236
Cornell University Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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